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11 Jun 20. Senate bill adds funding for Army helicopter program and to buy more drones. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act recommends increasing funding for the future long-range assault aircraft and to buy additional drones, according to a summary report released Thursday.
On the whole, the senators seem to have focused more on programs from the Air Force and Navy, largely leaving the Army untouched, per the summary. However, full language has yet to be released. The Army requested $178bn for fiscal 2021, down slightly from its fiscal 2020 request of $182bn.
The FLRAA program, which seeks a new long-range assault aircraft by 2030, is receiving $5m more than was requested. It is the second year in a row Congress has increased funding for the program above what the Pentagon asked for, following a $76m increase in FY20 to drive down technical risk and speed up delivery.
FLRAA is one of two key programs for modernizing Army aviation. The Bell V-280 Valor tilt rotor and the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant coaxial are both contending for the FLRAA contract. The competition for the program of record will begin in 2022, with a plan to field the first unit equipped in 2030.
The Senate is also adding $165m for the purchase of additional MQ-1 unmanned aircraft for the Army to “meet state requirements for unmanned fixed wing ISR.” Additional language requires the secretary of the Army “submit a plan to operationally deploy or forward station in an operational theater or theaters” two batteries of interim cruise missile defense capability.
On the cyber front, another $5m is slated for Army operation and maintenance to “provide Cyber Mission Forces with more resources to access, operate, and train as required by increased operational demand.” Although not Army-specific, the NDAA language emphasizes the importance of the overall cyber posture, including an analysis of the Cyber Mission Force and an “evaluation of cyber reserve force options, which could provide capable surge capability and enable [the Department of Defense] to draw on cyber talent in the department sector.”
Overall recruitment targets for the service is set at 485,000, adjusted own slightly from what the Army predicted in its FY21 budget request.
08 Jun 20. DARPA Announces First Bug Bounty Program to Hack SSITH Hardware Defenses. FETT Bug Bounty to put SSITH hardware defenses in the hands of hundreds of ethical hackers to uncover flaws and strengthen electronic system protections. Electronic systems – from the processors powering smartphones to the embedded devices keeping the Internet of Things humming – have become a critical part of daily life. The security of these systems is of paramount importance to the Department of Defense (DoD), commercial industry, and beyond. To help protect these systems from common means of exploitation, DARPA launched the System Security Integration Through Hardware and Firmware (SSITH) program in 2017. Instead of relying on patches to ensure the safety of our software applications, SSITH seeks to address the underlying hardware vulnerabilities at the source. Research teams are developing hardware security architectures and tools that protect electronic systems against common classes of hardware vulnerabilities exploited through software.
To help harden the SSITH hardware security protections in development, DARPA today announced its first ever bug bounty program called, the Finding Exploits to Thwart Tampering (FETT) Bug Bounty. FETT aims to utilize hundreds of ethical researchers, analysts, and reverse engineers to deep dive into the hardware architectures in development and uncover potential vulnerabilities or flaws that could weaken their defenses. DARPA is partnering with the DoD’s Defense Digital Service (DDS) and Synack, a trusted crowdsourced security company on this effort. In particular, FETT will utilize Synack’s existing community of vetted, ethical researchers as well as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) enabled technology along with their established vulnerability disclosure process to execute the crowdsourced security engagement.
Bug bounty programs are commonly used to assess and verify the security of a given technology, leveraging monetary rewards to encourage hackers to report potential weaknesses, flaws, or bugs in the technology. This form of public Red Teaming allows organizations or individual developers to address the disclosed issues, potentially before they become significant security challenges.
“The FETT Bug Bounty is a unique take on DARPA’s more traditional program evaluation efforts,” said Keith Rebello, the DARPA program manager leading SSITH and FETT. “FETT will open SSITH’s hardware security protections to a global community of ethical researchers with expertise in hardware reserve engineering to detect potential vulnerabilities, strengthen the technologies, and provide a clear path to disclosure.”While most bug bounty programs focus on software evaluation, FETT is unique in making hardware instances available for Red Teaming. Security researchers will be given access to emulated systems running in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) EC2 F1 cloud. Each emulated system is FPGA-based and includes a RISC-V processor core, modified to include the hardware security protections developed under SSITH. The software stack on each emulated system is expected to contain known vulnerabilities, with the SSITH hardware security protections intended to prevent exploitation of these vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities will be based on common classes of security weaknesses as identified by the MITRE Common Weakness Enumeration Specification (CWE) and NIST, including buffer errors, information leakage, resource management, numeric errors, etc. Security researchers will be tasked with devising novel exploit mechanisms to bypass the hardware security protections and sharing their findings through the established disclosure process.
“There is a lot of complexity associated with hardware architectures, which is why we wanted to provide ample time for interested researchers to understand, explore, and evaluate the SSITH protections,” noted Rebello. While most of Synack’s crowdsourced security engagements run for two weeks or continuous year round, FETT is expected to run from July to September 2020 to allow for extensive analysis and testing of the hardware.
SSITH hardware security protections developed by researchers at SRI International and the University of Cambridge, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Michigan, and Lockheed Martin will be available for evaluation. Over the past two years, these research teams have explored a number of different design approaches and their techniques generally involve providing the hardware with more information about what the software is trying to do. With this insight, the hardware can become a more active participant in defense and guard against accidental or malicious transgressions. The research teams are working closely with Galois, a computer science research and development company, to transition the emulated systems to the cloud and support ongoing evaluation efforts.
To help demonstrate the pervasiveness of electronic systems and criticality of their security, researchers will see SSITH defenses used within a number of electronic system application frameworks. This will include a medical records database system, a password authentication system for personal computers, and several additional computer software programs that are utilizing SSITH’s protections.
“Among the vulnerable applications found in FETT is a web-based voter registration system. Successful integration of the SSITH hardware protection technologies aims to ultimately protect the underlying voter information from manipulation or disclosure, even in the presence of vulnerabilities in the system’s software. The goal with this demonstrator, as well as the other application systems, is to show how SSITH technologies could help protect critical infrastructure, and potentially prevent the erosion of trust in things like our election process or healthcare systems,” said Rebello.
Prior to the start of FETT, Synack is running a Capture-the-Flag (CTF) qualifier for any hacker, reverse engineer, or cybersecurity enthusiast interested in gaining access to the SSITH defenses. Security researchers that are not currently Synack Red Team (SRT) members will be provided an opportunity to earn a Technical Assessment ‘Fast Pass’ to join SRT (legal verification steps still required) through the CTF event. Current SRT members that meet the skills criteria will be granted access to the program throughout the life of the engagement. The CTF event is expected to run from June 15-29, 2020. Additional information is available at https://go.synack.com/darpa-ctf-registration-page.html.The FETT Bug Bounty will be open to Technical Assessment ‘Fast Pass’ holders as well as verified SRT members in July 2020. Additional information is available at FETT.darpa.mil. (Source: ASD Network)
09 Jun 20. This summer could be a make or break moment for US Air Force’s next fighter program. The U.S. Air Force is on track to finalize a business case for its ambitious next-generation fighter this summer, its top acquisition official said Tuesday, and the results could be a make or break moment for the program.
The Air Force wants to radically shift its future fighter program — also known as Next Generation Air Dominance — to a model that the service’s acquisition executive Will Roper calls the “Digital Century Series.” This model would use new development techniques like digital engineering, open architecture and advances in software development techniques like DevSecOps to field advanced aircraft more quickly and cheaply.
At least, that’s the theory. Last September, Roper told Defense News that the program’s first order of business would be to present an acquisition strategy that would prove whether the Digital Century Series program is technologically feasible, how it should be structured and whether it would be cheaper than traditional forms of development.
Now, the plan is almost ready, Roper said during a Tuesday event held by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.
“I hope to have the acquisition plan for NGAD rolling into the Digital Century Series this summer,” he said. “I don’t want to go more specific than that and timeline and drumbeat for the team, because I have given them an unprecedented task.”
The Digital Century Series is much different than the Air Force’s initial sixth-generation fighter project, known as Penetrating Counter Air, which is to begin operations in the early 2030s. That jet would be part of a networked family of systems that include drones, sensors and other platforms formed after a decade of prototyping efforts.
In contrast, the Digital Century Series model would require multiple defense contractors to develop new fighter jets in a matter of years using whatever technological advances have recently emerged. The Air Force would then downselect to a single vendor, buy a small number of aircraft and restart the process — allowing for companies to constantly be designing and producing planes.
The entire process, Roper said, could take as little as five years.
In October, Col. Dale White was named head of the program executive office for advanced aircraft, which manages the NGAD portfolio of systems and oversees the Digital Century Series acquisition plan. That program office will become PEO Fighters and Advanced Aircraft at the end of June, with White having been selected for promotion to brigadier general.
The Air Force has asked for $1bn for the NGAD program in fiscal 2021. It received $905m for the program the previous year. However, it’s likely the Air Force will need to greatly increase that sum in future budgets.
Roper has projected that aircraft development under a Digital Century Series model could be more expensive than legacy methods due to having multiple companies under contract and requiring them to design and prototype aircraft very quickly. However, he also believes sustainment and modernization costs will be far lower.
If that theory can be proved out in the acquisition strategy, Congress might more likely agree to fund an unconventional, experimental program.
“How long we keep the aircraft is one of the variables that they are weighing [as part of the business case]. How many years make sense? It’s clearly not two, three, four, five, but we don’t want it to be 30 either. So they’re looking at that,” Roper said Tuesday. “They’re looking at the amount of modernization that would be expected — what we would expect that to cost and if it gets easier with digital tools. And then summing it all up to see whether the cost of having a lethal airplane per year is less than for the Digital Century Series model than for the traditional.”
“If it is, that is going to really help us, I hope, because we’ll show that data and argue that it is not just better from a ‘competing with China and lethality’ standpoint. It’s just better from a business standpoint,” Roper said. “If it breaks even or is less [than traditional methods], I will be exceptionally happy. If it’s more expensive — and I hope not exceptionally more — then we’re going to have to argue” on behalf of the program. (Source: Defense News)
10 Jun 20. US Air Force seeks hardened artificial intelligence algorithms to assist aircraft piloting. The US Air Force (USAF) is in the early stages of developing artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms hardened against enemy attacks to command aircraft in partnership with human pilots.
Will Roper, USAF assistant secretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics (AT&L), said on 9 June that these algorithms, coined R2D2, would likely be first tested in the USAF’s Skyborg autonomous unmanned combat air vehicle prototype. Roper wants to better leverage convolutional neural networks in deep learning that tech companies use to analyse images posted on social media without human involvement.
Modern AI is fragile and vulnerable, Roper said, making it acceptable for entertainment-related functions. However, in combat, an adversary will attempt to thwart and confound that AI, spurring the USAF to engage in basic research to accelerate a hardened AI technology that will be suitable for warfare.
The USAF is not simply developing algorithms to replace pilots, but to make them more effective.
“We want to design a pilot that can deal with an adversary that is … trying to thwart that convolutional neural network in a type of algorithmic warfare that has never existed, but will on the future battlefield,” Roper said during a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event. (Source: Jane’s)
08 Jun 20. US Air Force issues RFI for next-generation ISR/strike, medium-altitude UAV. The US Air Force (USAF) on 3 June issued a request for information (RFI) from industry about next-generation intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR)/strike, medium-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The USAF is also interested in a potential follow-on programme to the General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV. The air force is interested in researching alternative ways to support future lower-end, lower-cost ISR missions, which may include initiatives to modernise, augment, and/or replace existing systems, according to a notice posted on the beta.sam.gov federal contracting website.
A GA-ASI MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flight line at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, on 17 December 2019. The USAF issued a request for information on a next-generation ISR/strike medium-altitude UAV and possibly an MQ-9 follow-on programme.
The RFI emphasises unique and innovative practices that can deliver relevant capability efficiently, timely, and at a reduced lifecycle cost. The USAF wants solutions that support principles of the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS), which primarily includes, but is not limited to: autonomy, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, digital engineering, open mission systems, and attritable technology, among others.
The acquisition strategy has not been determined. RFI responses will help the USAF determine the acquisition path with an emphasis on maximising multiple competitions to include the air vehicle; automated ISR sensors and data exploitation; and ground controls stations (GCS), systems, and suites. The service wants all these to adhere to open architecture (OA) principles with an emphasis on welcoming innovative solutions from small businesses. (Source: Jane’s)
REST OF THE WORLD
12 Jun 20. Lockheed Martin Australia has announced the award of eight contracts to Australian industry and academic organisations for a combined value of $600,000 to author white papers on the development of novel and emerging advanced technologies in support of Australia’s Attack Class submarine combat systems.
This is the second cycle of research and development (R&D), which is funded under the Future Submarine Combat System Integrator Program. The R&D program is based on an ongoing nine-month cyclic process funded by the Commonwealth and administered under the Lockheed Martin Australia contract.
Each R&D cycle consists of proposals from industry and academia against a set of published R&D topics.
After a competitive review and assessment of proposal responses, down-selected responses are awarded a contract to fund further development of a White Paper. Upon completion of the white papers, further contracts may be awarded to selected respondents for ongoing capability research.
The combat system R&D program features a continuous process to build ongoing Australian combat system R&D capabilities that have been scaled to meet the long-term needs and developing future capability and technology for the Australian Submarine Force.
The first cycle of R&D contracts in March 2019 saw more than $900,000 allocated to industry and academic institutions for white paper development. These cycle one white papers are currently being assessed for suitability for the competitive award of contracts for longer-term ongoing capability research.
Requests for the following topics under cycle two projects were sought and the organisations that have been successful for the award of contracts of $75,000 each are shown against each topic:
- Novel methods for reliable communications on an unstable platform – contract awarded to Innovations for Humanity from NSW;
- Emerging technologies for improved autonomous celestial navigation – contract awarded to University of Adelaide;
- Distributed underwater sensor networks and their impact on submarine operations – no contracts were awarded under this topic for cycle two;
- Novel methods to integrate compressive sensing techniques – contract awarded to University of South Australia;
- Novel methods to monitor, track and efficiently manage power within racks – contract awarded to University of Melbourne;
- Use of advanced materials and fabrication processes to overcome space, weight, power and cooling constraints – contract awarded to Airspeed Pty Ltd located in South Australia;
- Investigation into real-time monitoring of human performance – contract awarded to University of South Australia;
- Smart driven dynamic reallocation of computing resources based on compute demands – two contracts were awarded under this topic to University of Tasmania and IPACS Australia located in South Australia. (Source: Defence Connect)
05 Jun 20. Defence recognises Navantia Australia as design authority. Defence has signed a strategic agreement with Navantia Australia, formalising a strong working relationship in the design space. The agreement formally recognises Navantia as a design authority for four classes of Royal Australian Navy ships.
Vice Admiral Michael Noonan AO, Chief of Navy, and Navantia Australia’s chairman, Warren King, signed the agreement on board HMAS Hobart in Sydney Harbour on 17 May 2020.
The strategic agreement provides a framework to ensure that all current and future Navantia-designed vessels in service with the RAN are adequately supported for their life of type.
Under the agreement, Navantia Australia will work towards establishing a digital ship as a means to enhance the service level for each class of ship. This will ensure that the design integrity, configuration control, upgrades and modernisation of Navantia-designed ships and supplied systems and equipment are fully supported in Australia.
Chief of the RAN, VADM Noonan said, “The strategic agreement outlines Defence and Navantia Australia’s joint commitment to ensure the best possible support for Australia’s Navantia-designed warships.
“This agreement further enhances the important relationship between Defence and Navantia.”
Navantia Australia’s chairman remarked, “This represents a significant milestone in the development of the sovereign capability of Navantia Australia and strengthens Australia’s naval shipbuilding and sustainment industry. It will see the largest, most valuable transfer of capability that I am aware of in the history of Australian defence industry.”
“This transfer means that the design data for the Hobart Class guided missile destroyers, Canberra Class landing helicopter docks and landing craft and the Navy’s new Supply Class auxiliary oiler replenishment ships and the maintenance, update and upgrade of the Navantia Integrated Platform Management System components will all be managed from Australia.”
Navantia Australia managing director Alfonso García-Valdés also suggested that having the responsibility for contributing to the management and development of the Hobart Class family in Australia means the company will have greater ability to incorporate local technologies.
Navantia’s productive partnership with the Royal Australian Navy began with the contracts to design the Hobart Class guided missile destroyers and continued with the design and co-manufacture of the Canberra Class landing helicopter docks (LHD), the design and construction of 12 LHD landing craft, and the design, build and sustainment of the new Supply Class auxiliary oiler replenishment ships.
Established in 2012, Navantia Australia currently delivers platform system design and integration services for all classes of Navantia-designed vessels. (Source: Defence Connect)
04 Jun 20. Five New Super Hercules to Join Air Force Fleet. The Coalition Government has confirmed five Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules transport aircraft will be purchased to replace the existing fleet, Defence Minister Ron Mark announced today.
“Last year, Cabinet selected these aircraft as the preferred option to replace the current Hercules fleet. Procurement of the Super Hercules has been my highest capability priority as Minister of Defence,” Ron Mark said.
“Along with the new fleet, the $1.521bn project will deliver a full mission flight simulator and other supporting infrastructure.
“Generations of New Zealanders have grown up and grown old with the Hercules, and they know these aircraft are an essential first line of response. This decision ensures the Defence Force will have the capability it needs to meet expected future tasks.
“This fleet will ensure the Defence Force can continue to support New Zealand’s community resilience, our national security, our contribution to our Pacific neighbours and the wider global community.
“This decision ensures tactical airlift will remain available to undertake operations in New Zealand’s immediate region, as well as support our interests in Antarctica, often in support of other government agencies.
“The new aircraft will carry a greater payload, is faster and can travel further than the current Hercules aircraft.
“Each aircraft will also be fitted with additional specialist capabilities, including a wide bandwidth, high speed satellite communications system and an electro-optical/infra-red camera.
“This equipment will make our new Super Hercules among the most capable in the world. The satellite communications system will allow imagery, video and data to be streamed in real time, and the camera allows for aerial surveillance, including at the same time as the aircraft is undertaking transport tasks, particularly useful on humanitarian and disaster relief operations and search and rescue missions.”
The aircraft and simulator are being acquired through the United States’ Foreign Military Sales process as part of a package that includes aircrew and maintainer training.
“As with our decision to acquire the P-8A Poseidon fleet through the Foreign Military Sales process, this has reduced costs and allows collaboration with other nations on developments and system upgrades that will be necessary over the life of the aircraft,” Ron Mark said.
“The first of the new Hercules will be delivered in 2024, with the full fleet operating from 2025, allowing for a phased retirement of the current fleet.
“The flight simulator will help us to build and maintain crew skills, and allow more demanding training scenarios to be attempted without risk to personnel, and while preserving flight hours for operational tasks.”
In addition, the Coalition Government has also approved $21m to upgrade systems in the Air Force NH90 helicopters to comply with regulatory and operational requirements.
“This investment, building on the first tranche announced last year, will ensure that the New Zealand Defence Force’s aircraft are fitted with updated communication, navigation, air traffic management and identification systems,” Ron Mark said.
“The upgrade of the NH90 will be undertaken in cooperation with a number of other nations who operate these helicopters including Australia, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Italy, France, and Norway.
“This will provide us with an opportunity to share development costs amongst all participating nations, which means this approach is less expensive and risky than pursuing a bespoke solution.
“Without upgrading these systems, the NZDF aircraft may be restricted in operations in both controlled civil and military airspace. Funding for this project will be provided for from NZDF baselines,” Ron Mark said.
Work is expected to be initiated in 2021 on the second phase of upgrading New Zealand’s air mobility capability, when options will be considered for replacing the two Boeing 757 aircraft operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force. These are expected to reach their end of service life towards the end of this decade. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/ New Zealand Ministry of Defence)
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